Russian weapons get between the US and India - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.

The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”


India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.

Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.

India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya

India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.

India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.

The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.

India sees the S-400 as a way to increase its air defenses, especially amid its growing rivalry with China. But its purchase has been an issue for Washington.

Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
(Russian Ministry of Defense)

“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”

India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.

“The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.

Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.

“We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.

“Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

China was the first foreign country to receive the S-400, but Turkey has also acquired it, adding to tensions with its NATO partners, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar also reportedly considering purchasing it.

Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.

US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”

While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Intel

This 92-year-old WWII vet gets to fly her favorite plane again after 70 years

Joy Lofthouse was one of the women who pushed the envelope of what women did in World War II. She was a pilot for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, shuttling fighters between air bases, factories, and maintenance facilities.


Now, 70 years after she last flew a Spitfire, she’s back in the cockpit. Check out the video below:

NOW: Stunning footage shows pilot’s eye view from inside a Blue Angel cockpit

OR: Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

MIGHTY SPORTS

How adaptive surfing is saving the lives of veterans

Missing: One leg

Description: Orange, red and black with tire tread and pictures of palm trees, surfers and marching soldiers. If found, please return to Dana Cummings, no questions asked.

Cummings, a Marine Corps veteran, is bummed about the missing leg, but said it’s par for the course for adaptive surfing with one leg in San Diego.

“No, it’s still MIA,” he said. “Still out there floating somewhere. I built another one out of some parts I have and still have to glue the tread on. I lost one in Long Bay 10 years ago. Three weeks later it washed up two miles down the beach. Maybe someone in Tijuana will find this leg.”


That won’t stop him from bringing his organization, AmpSurf, to the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, Sept. 15 to 20, 2019, in San Diego. More than 150 veterans with various disabilities from across the U.S. will travel to California for a week of adaptive adventure sports and lessons in sailing, surfing, kayaking, pickleball, and cycling.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Dana Cummings lost his prosthetic leg while surfing a couple weeks ago in San Diego, but that won’t stop him and AmpSurf from coming to this year’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.

Cummings and AmpSurf will take many of those veterans out for the first time in their lives on the water and teach them how to catch a wave.

“This is the thing. Not trying to make world-class surfers out of these guys and women. Not trying to make them adaptive surf champs. We just want to focus on their abilities. We don’t focus on what you can’t do. To get that rush of riding the wave, the sensation of feeling that wave, it helps these veterans get more active.

“Everybody else out there may focus on the disability. When I walk down the street, people can’t help but stare at the leg. But through surfing, we are focusing on their abilities. I don’t care if you don’t surf again after that, but hopefully people go home and realize they surfed for this one week, they can do anything.”

Cummings never surfed when he had two legs. He served in the Marine Corps from 1989 to 1995, including a tour in Desert Storm. While driving his family in a Volkswagen bus in 2002, a vehicle in front of him slammed on the brakes to make a U-turn. Cummings whipped his vehicle to the side and took the brunt of the impact, crushing his legs.

“I remember the first prosthetist asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I told him I wanted to surf. And he said, ‘That’s probably not going to happen. You have to be realistic.’

“And I was like, ‘F you!’

“I got on my laptop, found another guy who told me he’d help me make it happen. I was surfing a week after I got out of the hospital. Those first two waves I caught l was laying down, but just happy to be there. The next time, I was able to stand up for two seconds.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Jason Wheeler rides a wave in on a handstand. He said surfing helps make him whole again.

“Now I can ride a long board forever. If I can do this, a fat, little farm guy from Maine, anybody can do this.”

Cummings discovered something else in the surf, too. It was like magic pill for his post-traumatic stress and other issues from the war.

“Surfing is my therapy,” he said. “I used to be on all these medications for depression, anxiety and PTSD. I don’t take any of them anymore. I surf. I surf almost every day. And I can tell, when things are going haywire, I have to go get in that bottle. And thank God VA realizes surfing is therapy. It’s natural.

“Mentally, physically, spiritually, it does all that.”

Since that day he took his first surfboard out, Cummings went on to start his organization that now has chapters in California, New York and New England, with another one starting in Oregon.

“We’ll take anyone out — veterans, blind, kids, anyone with disabilities. It’s funny, I kind of chuckle at it sometimes. I just got back from Oregon and was washing out these wet suits and I never imagined this.”

Changing minds, saving lives

After one event, he sent a survey to participants. A Navy veteran wrote back and said she was thinking of killing herself only days earlier, but AmpSurf changed her mind.

Jamil-Anne Linton said she was in such a deep depression with PTSD that she saw no way out.

“I was extremely suicidal,” she said. “But being out in the water, I didn’t have that fear. It helped me focus. The first time I was catching that wave, I got this feeling of humility, but also a feeling like I was on top of the world. And I love that feeling.”

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Dana Cummings said his organization has taught veterans, children and others with disabilities to surf, such as Rumi Walsh — the daughter of a veteran — who lost one of her arms.

Now she’s paying it forward. She went back to school to become a registered nurse and is working with mental health patients. She also continues to surf every week with Cummings and spread the word about his program.

“On a day I’m extremely stressed,” she said, “I go out on the water.”

“I can do it again”

AmpSurf made the difference, too, for Army veteran Jason Wheeler. He was injured while parachuting out of a Blackhawk helicopter during a training exercise, eventually losing both legs above the knee. The collision with the ground caused sight damage and he’s also legally blind.

“I had never even surfed before then,” Wheeler said. “But you get this energy from the water. You get that one solid wave. You know, you have good days and bad days, and you don’t know what it’s going to be. Surfing is just a like a day. When you wipe out, you say, ‘I can do it again.’

“It gives us a way of focusing on the abilities we can do. When you think about the negativity, it’s going to drown you, and that’s why we have so many suicides. Or you can surf and become whole. We’re all whole, we’re just like Rubik’s Cubes, just broken apart. Some of us just need to be put back together to become beautiful art.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army offers to repay soldiers’ college loans if they go infantry

The U.S. Army is offering to pay off student loans of up to $65,000 or to give $15,000 bonuses to recruits willing to sign up for the infantry.


The Army has been offering increased financial incentives to attract recruits to take on one of its most physically challenging jobs since it missed its recruiting goal in fiscal 2018 by 6,500 soldiers.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

“There’s a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army,” Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. “It’s us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals.

“Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships,” he added.

To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.

“The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers,” Markley said. “This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field.”

Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to ,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

Every military branch makes it plain where exactly you stand. It is worn on your uniform, printed on your CAC, you are greeted by it every day. “It” is rank and it plays a significant role as it entails your duties and expectations, job notwithstanding. It seems one rank reigns supreme in every service, though.


Below are 6 of the top reasons why being top of the lower enlisted ranks is the best rank.

Related:5 reasons MPs hate on firefighters

6. It’s the “25” of ranks

25 is the age that many of us have the time of our lives. We are far enough removed from teenage angst and the crap that often associates with it but still a lot more than a few wake-ups away from the big three-oh.

Old enough to get good insurance rates, but young enough to fit in most everywhere.

That is the Air Force’s Senior Airman. That is the Marine’s Lance Corporal. That is the Army’s Specialist. This is the Navy’s Seaman (heh). It’s far enough removed from boot but quite a ways from retirement.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
A toast to the good life. (Image from Warner Bros’ The Great Gatsby).

5. Watch and learn

This is the perfect rank to watch and learn.

You may have been mentored and exposed to some supervisory duties earlier (if you weren’t assigned to a POS) but it’s at this level where you are allowed to flex some of what you’ve learned.

Sometimes that power comes in an official supervisory capacity, sometimes as a makeshift assistant to your actual supervisor. It’s like being a Non-Commissioned Officer, but with training wheels.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
A SrA trying to explain how things go to a brand new Airman. (Image from Warner Bros’ Caddyshack).

4. Respect

The opinion of the Senior Airman/Specialist/Lance Corporal is respected. Those beneath the look up to them, or they should anyway, and those who outrank them will look to them as the bridge between the NCO and junior enlisted tiers.

It is literally the best of both worlds.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
When you finally gain respect. (Image from Toonami’s Dragon Ball Z).

3. Introductory supervisory roles

As stated above, you may have some actual, official supervisor duties depending on how long you’ve been there and what type of performance you’ve turned in to that point.

Even if you haven’t been granted such access, you are still going to be entrusted with certain responsibilities just based on the necessity for you to grow up and fill the role.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
A SSgt explaining the basics to their prized SrA.

2. You know all the tricks

At this point, you know what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, most of the time. You also know exactly what you’re not supposed to do…and what rules will really get you in trouble.

You know how to maximize your sleep and how to quickly get your uniform together. You can commit large passages of regulation to memory, verbatim. You know what you’re doing and what you want to do.

Good news is you’ve mastered this rank just in time to promote. Now the game changes.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
All SrA watching younger Airmen think they’re getting away with something. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory).

Also read: 7 of the top surprises veterans face going to school

1. Perfect purgatory

You rest in nearly a perfect position.

You’ve been in for a some time now and have likely earned a good amount of respect and responsibility and that feels great. Conversely, you’re still junior enlisted yourself and won’t be thrown into the deep end just yet.

How is this better than being an NCO? From my experience in the Air Force, Staff Sergeants are typically viewed in a more infantile manner than the Senior Airman.

I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, it is a fact of life.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
Glorious freedom. (Image from Warner Bros’ 300).

MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

A roundup of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries:


Iran

Iran says the COVID-19 illness has killed 129 more people, a single-day record high for one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

During a televised news conference on March 16, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur appealed to the public to drastically curb outings, especially intercity trips.

“Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempts to travel to any province,” Jahanpur said.

The deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran’s first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease sparked by the coronavirus.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a 78-year-old member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country’s supreme leader, is the latest of several Iranian officials to have died, local media reported.

Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.

Iran has the third-most registered cases after China and Italy.

Tehran Province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.

The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Tehran coming next with 96.

The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took its total to 1,023.

There are suspicions that the outbreak in the Islamic republic — whose government is known for its opaqueness and censorship — is far worse than authorities are admitting.

President Hassan Rohani on March 16 urged Iranians to stay home for the Norouz holiday celebrations on March 20 and to avoid traveling over the festive period.

Police are to begin checking the temperature of drivers, Rohani said, adding to a raft of measures that include the closure of schools, universities, and Iran’s most sacred site.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has canceled his annual Persian New Year’s speech in the city of Mashhad, planned for March 21.

Russia

Russia says it will ban the entry of foreign nationals and stateless people to May 1 in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government said on March 16 that the ban, starting on March 18, won’t apply to diplomatic representatives and some other categories of people.

Russia has reported 93 cases of the virus so far, but no deaths.

Earlier in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new measures in the Russian capital, including prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10, and closing schools and universities from March 21 until April 12.

Sobyanin also asked elderly people to stay home.

A subsidiary of Russian Railways Rail said service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia would be suspended as of March 17.

Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russia’s “unnecessary” decision to close the border between the two countries in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There must be no unnecessary moves that might complicate already uneasy relations between the two nations,” he said on March 16 during a meeting with officials in Minsk.

The Russian government said the restrictive measures against Belarus, announced earlier in the day, were “prompted by special circumstances and are absolutely temporary.”

Belarus has reported 36 cases of coronavirus so far, but no deaths. Russian authorities have confirmed 93 cases, and no deaths.

Belarus, heavily reliant on Russia for cheap oil, has been at odds with Moscow over oil prices for months. The dispute is part of wider political discord between the two countries over forming a union state.

Instead of closing the Russian-Belarusian border, Lukashenka said, “our dearly beloved” Russia should help Belarus beef up security against coronavirus at its border with Poland, which he called “our common union-state border.”

The Belarusian leader also said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone soon.

Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under a 1999 unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.

Serbia

Serbian election authorities have delayed general elections scheduled for April 26 until after the end of a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican Election Commission said it decided to “temporarily suspend the elections process during the state of emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak,” in a statement on March 16.

Preparations for the elections will be resumed after the state of emergency is revoked, according to commission Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic.

The Balkan state has so far recorded 57 coronavirus infections. There have been no fatalities, but two patients are in serious condition, health authorities say.

Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15 in a bid to prevent the rapid spreading of the epidemic, shutting down schools and universities.

In announcing the decision, President Aleksandar Vucic said in a televised address that from March 16 the military would be guarding state hospitals, while police will be monitoring those quarantined or in self-isolation for 14 or 28 days.

Those who violate quarantine may face jail terms of up to three years, he warned.

Serbia also announced it was closing its borders to foreigners coming from the worst-hit countries.

Vucic, however, said the border-entry ban did not apply to people from China, praising Beijing for helping Serbia amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He criticized the European Union for allegedly failing to provide adequate support.

After Vucic’s address, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told state TV that borders will be open only “for Serbians, foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals with residence permits.”

Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan

Five more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uzbekistan, bringing the total to six, the government’s Telegram channel dedicated to the disease said on March 16.

Four of the six individuals are members of one Uzbek family returning from France, the government said in a separate statement.

Uzbekistan early on March 15 had reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.

Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.

The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.

Kazakhstan had already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.

Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.

The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic that as of early March 15 had infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800.

Armenia

The Armenian government has declared a monthlong state of emergency to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Assembly discussed the move for several hours, and none of the three parliamentary factions raised any objections or proposed any amendments.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told lawmakers that Armenia would have to hold its referendum on constitutional reforms, originally planned for April 5, after the state of emergency ends.

“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place during a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” he said.

Armenia reported 17 new coronavirus cases on March 16, bringing the total number of cases to 45. One patient is said to have recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.

Armenia and Russia have agreed to suspend passenger flights between the two countries for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Armenian government press service said on March 16.

The decision was made during a phone conversation between Pashinian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin.

All Armenian educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with Iran – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak – and Georgia are closed.

Georgia

Georgia will close its borders to foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.

Irakli Chikovani, the spokesman of the prime minister, said Georgian citizens who wish to return to the country will be able to do so, using Georgian Airways flights.

Georgia has registered 33 cases of the new coronavirus.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan reported five new cases on March 15, bringing the total number of registered cases in the country to 16.

Officials in Kabul said that all of those infected are Afghans who have recently returned from neighboring Iran.

The officials said up to 15,000 Afghan migrants workers and refugees are returning from Iran on a daily basis.

Pakistan

Pakistani President Arif Alvi is on an official visit to China on March 16-17 to hold meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and other top officials, Alvi’s office said in a statement on March 15.

The statement said the visit aims at “further solidifying historic bonds” between the two countries and described China and Pakistan as “the closest friends and staunch partners.”

It also pointed out that the visit comes as China is “engaged in efforts to contain” the spread of the new coronavirus, which has affected 157 countries and territories since it was first recorded in Wuhan, a city in central China.

It’s Alv”s first official visit to China, a strategic partner and major investor to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan on March 16 announced 41 additional cases of infection with the coronavirus after 41 more cases were confirmed in the Sindh region, bringing the total tally to 94.

Dozens of people quarantined at the Pakistan-Iran border protested what they called the poor hygiene in the camps.

The quarantined include religious pilgrims who are now returning from Iran.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has declared a state of emergency for 30 days to fight the spread of the disease.

During the state of emergency, schools will be closed; prices for medicine, fuel, and utilities are frozen; road and air traffic could be banned; and borders may be closed if necessary.

Romania has 158 registered cases.

One Romanian citizen — a woman in her 80s — died last week in Italy from COVID-19, the illness sparked by the virus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria banned entry on its territory of citizens from 15 countries with large coronavirus outbreaks, including five EU member states, as of March 18, the Health Ministry said.

Exceptions will be made for citizens with permanent or long-term permits to stay in Bulgaria and their family members.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is trying to get an edge on NATO as it stokes Ukraine

A confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea in November 2018 ended with Ukraine’s ships seized and its sailors jailed.

It was the first direct clash between Moscow and Kiev in years, and it stoked tensions that have been elevated for years, especially after Russia intervened in Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean Peninsula and then backed separatist movements along Ukraine’s eastern border.

The Nov. 25, 2018 clash took place in the Kerch Strait, which divides Crimea and mainland Russia and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Photos show Russia appears to have struck one of the Ukrainian ships with a heavy weapon, such as a 30mm gun or missile.


Since claiming Crimea, Russia has taken a more aggressive stance toward the Sea of Azov, declaring invalid a 2003 agreement in which Moscow and Kiev agreed to share the body of water.

In 2015, Russia began construction of a bridge over the Kerch Strait. The sea is already the world’s shallowest, no deeper than 50 feet, and the height of the bridge further restricted the size of ships that could pass through.

Russia has also interfered with Ukrainian shipping in the area and at times closed the strait completely — all of which is particularly challenging for Ukraine, which has major ports on the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine and Russia have both pursued a military buildup in the area, but Russia has more forces and their activity has been more substantial.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross, background, conducts an underway exercise with the Ukrainian navy.

Moscow’s moves in the Black Sea region are of a piece of with what it’s been doing throughout Eastern Europe amid heightened tensions with NATO.

‘An arc of A2/AD’

Since 2014, Russia has “built up tremendous amounts of capability” in Crimea, said Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical-analysis firm Stratfor.

Russian forces in the area now amount to about 30,000 troops and more than 100 combat aircraft, up from dozens that were in the area prior to the takeover, Lamrani said. (In May 2018, 17 Russian planes swarmed a British warship sailing just 30 miles from Crimea.)

“They have now three battalions of S-400s, plus other air-defense systems, like the S-300 [and the] Buk M2,” Lamrani said. Another division of S-400 missiles is on its way to Crimea, where it will be the fourth on duty, according to Russian state media.

“They installed a number of coastal missile-defense batteries” firing weapons like Bastion and Bal cruise missiles, which can strike land and sea targets, Lamrani said. Russian state media also said this week that more Bal and other anti-ship missiles were headed to the Crimean city of Kerch, which overlooks the strait of the same name.

“They have some Iskander missiles they rotate through the area, lots of new artillery systems, lots of new armor,” Lamrani added, referring to Russian short-range, nuclear-capable cruise missiles. “They didn’t really have main battle tanks there before 2014. Now they do.”

Russia sees Crimea as a stronghold from which to pressure Ukraine and assert control over a broader swath of the Black Sea, Lamrani said.

Weapons like the S-400 and coastal-defense systems can be employed as a part of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, strategy, and their presence in Crimea and elsewhere along Russia’s eastern frontiers has garnered attention from NATO.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

The S-400, considered Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, is also deployed in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The S-300, which is older but still highly capable, has been deployed in the region, including in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, which borders the Black Sea.

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Hodges added, “but the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Russia S-400 air-defense systems in Syria.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Russian moves around the Black Sea were particularly worrisome, Hodges said, comparing the seizure of Crimea and subsequent territorial claims in the Black Sea to China’s claims and island construction in the South China Sea.

Some of the NATO members bordering the sea, like Romania and Bulgaria, don’t have a major naval presence there, but Turkey would likely prevent Russia from having free reign in the sea.

With the vantage point provided by Crimea, Russian combat aircraft and land-based weapons systems like the S-400 and Bal missiles can extend their reach hundreds of miles into and over the Black Sea.

“They can effectively support their navy with an umbrella defense of surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship missile systems that can keep NATO away in case of any threat,” Lamrani said.

A2/AD systems could provide similar defense in a place like Kaliningrad, which has Russia’s only year-round, ice-free Baltic Sea port and is close to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. In western Syria, where Russian S-400 systems have already been deployed, US-led coalition forces have worked hard to avoid Russian airspace.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) flagship HMS Duncan, arrives to the harbor in Constanta, Romania, Feb. 2, 2018.

(NATO / CPO FRA C.Valverde)

‘Alive to these challenges’

Russian forces are outstripped by NATO as a whole, and an all-out Russian attack on another country is considered unlikely.

But concern has grown that Russian A2/AD in areas like eastern Syria or the Baltic and Black seas could create layered defensive bubbles and limit NATO’s freedom of movement — especially in an engagement below the threshold of war.

In the decades since the Cold War, NATO members also shifted their attention away from a potential conflict with a peer or near-peer foe, focusing instead on smaller-scale operations like counterterrorism. (The US and others have started to reverse this shift.)

“There’s been decline in … investments rather in this type of warfare, as NATO attention has shifted to other priorities,” Lamrani said of A2/AD.

But, he noted, Russia has pursued the mismatch to compensate for a weakness.

“Russia is stronger than NATO in air defenses and stronger than NATO in land-based anti-ship missile systems, as well as anti-missile systems in general,” Lamrani said. “That came out of Russia trying to mitigate its disadvantages in other areas. For instance, NATO naval forces are much stronger than Russia, and NATO air power as a whole is much stronger than Russia.”

Advanced stealth platforms, like the US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are seen as potential counters to A2/AD systems. And other assets, like the Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, could help thwart them.

But it’s not clear those resources are available in the numbers needed to do so, nor is it likely such an engagement could be conducted without heavy losses.

Nevertheless, while Russia may find an advantage within the specific area of A2/AD, Lamrani said, “that doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been developing its own capabilities in other areas [and it] doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been thinking about this type of stuff.”

“Let’s just say the alliance is alive to these challenges, and it … will be prepared to use all the different things that would be required,” Hodges said in early November, without elaborating. “This is not something … the alliance has not looked at very closely.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘Game of Thrones’ went WW2 in the penultimate episode

Major spoilers ahead for Season 8 Episode 5.

I mean character spoilers, though. Turn back if you have enjoyed watching Daenerys Targaryen rise from being sold and raped to become the just ruler of Slaver Dragon Bay before returning to Westeros and fighting alongside her people. In The Bells, Daenerys goes from being the Breaker of Chains to Queen of the Ashes in an instant, destroying all of King’s Landing and, of course, the internet.

She’d already won the battle…so why did she do it?

Let’s talk about Fat Man and Little Boy.


Hiroshima Atomic Bomb (1945) | A Day That Shook the World

www.youtube.com

On August 6, 1945, the United States released a nuclear weapon over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second bomb, this one over the city of Nagasaki, killing 40,000 more instantly, while thousands more would die of radiation poisoning.

Eight days later, Japan formally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.

Last night on Game of Thrones, Daenerys Stormborn defeated the military protecting Cersei Lannister…but she made the choice to raze King’s Landing and the Red Keep to the ground with dragonfire anyway.

Why?

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The only reasoning I can accept is that she needed to demonstrate the full capabilities of her power so that none would challenge her again. Her logic is that a weapon of mass destruction is justified to ultimately save the lives of the rest of the kingdom.

In other words, she made the decision to nuke Japan to end the war.

Also read: How Daenerys used tactics that made the Red Baron famous

If you’re like me and you’ve been thrilled to watch the strongest most bad ass female protagonist ever and she’s your Khaleesi and your Mhysa and, yeah, she burns her enemies a little but whatever who wouldn’t then yes, this hurts.

Many people have argued that this was not an out-of-character arc.

To those people I say Drogon can eat you all…but here we are.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

She had her reasons.

When American scientists successfully employed an atomic bomb in 1945, President Harry S. Truman was faced with a decision. He tasked a committee of advisors to deliberate whether to use the bomb against Japan (by then, Germany had already surrendered). Ultimately, the men decided to use the bomb rather than prolong the war.

The alternative was an invasion of Japan, which would have cost (American) money and lives.

Truman always stood by his decision.

Also read: 7 secret weapons Allied soldiers would’ve faced while invading Japan

If Daenerys Targaryen truly believes that she is not only the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, but also the best ruler, then it is conceivable that she would pursue victory at all costs. In the episodes leading up to her conquest of King’s Landing, she realized that she didn’t have the support or loyalty of the North that was promised to her by the Starks — not even from her lover-turned-rival Aegon Targaryen Jon Snow.

So I guess in her hangry moment up there on her battle buddy she decided she would have to show everyone what she was capable of — so that fear would cause them to comply.

This will obviously not go over well from the holier-than-thou Starks in what promises to be the crankiest series final ever.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

See you next week.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ post-credits scene will make olds very happy

After finishing off Avengers: Endgame with a definitive and decidedly sweet ending, the next big Marvel movie — Spider-Man: Far From Home — will return to Marvel’s diabolic plans to get you to sit through the credits for extra scenes. Are there post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home and do that matter? The answer is a big yes.

No spoilers ahead.

It’s hard to know which of these facts feels more surreal:


  1. Tom Holland has been in five Marvel movies as Spider-Man at this point
  2. It’s only been five years since Andrew Garfield was in his second Spider-Man movie; which also starred Jamie Foxx getting bitten by electric eels.
  3. 2019 marks twelve years since Tobey Maguire did his emo-Spider-Man dance routine in Spider-Man 3.

Feeling old yet? If so, there’s some very good news about Spider-Man: Far From Home. The post-credits scene is basically made for olds. If you remember seeing the first Tobey Maguire Spidey-flick like the same year you were able to legally buy alcohol for the first time (or maybe even before) then this post-credits scene is for you.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

We aren’t going to spoil what it is exactly yet, but let’s just put it this way: There are two post-credits scenes for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and the first one is the one you’ve got to see. Technically, this is what the pros call a “mid-credits” scene because it happens pretty quickly after the movie “ends.” (These movies never end.)

Will this scene make everyone happy? Yes. Does it set-up great things for the next big phase of Marvel movies. Big yes.

So, word of warning, between now and July 2, 2019, avoid spoilers as much as you can. This might not as Endgame-level as some thought, but if you’re of a certain age, it’s going to be very, very cool.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is out in theaters on July 2, 2019, which is, friendly reminder, a freaking Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the combat drone Japan has been building in secret

Unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, are seen as a key part of the future of military aviation. A number of countries have openly been developing these vehicles, including the United States, Russia, and France.


But as We Are The Mighty has learned, Japan also was developing a UCAV, but didn’t tell anyone.

During a recent Air Force conference near Washington, We Are The Mighty witnessed a video at the Kawasaki booth that revealed a brief clip of the company’s research and development efforts into a UCAV. The UCAV appeared to be similar to the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 test vehicles.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
This scene from a video shows Kawasaki’s UCAV prototype in flight. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

An initial request for information was declined by a company representative, who told us that the Japanese government did not wish to discuss the program. The next day, another representative claimed to have no knowledge of the program.

Only after a third Kawasaki representative, Takumi Kobayashi, was forwarded a cell phone photo of the UCAV’s cameo did he state that it was “an experimental aircraft tested about 10 years ago” and that “it was a research project funded by Japan MOD.” Kobayashi later stated in an e-mail that the described the UCAV as “a project in 2008.” Japan does maintain a Self-Defense Force and established a Ministry of Defense in 2007.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
David Deptula during his service with the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

When WATM asked Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, about whether he had any indication Japan was developing a UCAV, he had a one-word answer: “No.”

This points to Japan’s UCAV program being carried out behind a veil of secrecy comparable to those used with American black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
A second image of the Kawasaki UCAV’s appearance in a video shown at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The likely reason for this veil of secrecy and the reluctance to discuss the Kawasaki UCAV lies in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. This provision states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Russian weapons get between the US and India The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters hover nearby. Japan calls this carrier-like vessel (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This provision explains why Japan considers its light carriers of the Hyuga and Izumo classes to be “helicopter destroyers.” The Italian carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, displacing about 10,500 tons as compared to the roughly 19,000-ton displacement of the Hyuga, operated AV-8B+ Harriers during the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D, a previous name for the MQ-25a) launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2013. Kawasaki’s UCAV appears similar to the X-47. (US Navy Photo)

How does Kawasaki’s UCAV fall within those restrictions? Its apparent similarity to the X-45 and X-47 opens the possibility that it may not. Deptula told WATM in a phone interview that UCAVs presently fit “much more in an offensive context as opposed to air defense” given the current state of technology.

According to specs available at GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline X-47 did not have a payload capability, but the larger X-47B had two weapons bays and was able to carry 4,500 pounds of ordnance. A planned X-47C was to increase the payload to 10,000 pounds.

Russian weapons get between the US and India
An X-47B demonstrator with folded wings on the aircraft elevator of USS George H.W. Bush. (US Navy photo by MC2 Timothy Walter)

Inquiries from WATM to Japan’s Ministry of Defense received no responses, but the Japanese embassy in the United States did respond to an inquiry, offering to have a defense attaché contact Kawasaki for more information. When asked about any plans the Japanese Self-Defense Force had involving UCAVs, they stated, “The Japanese self-defense force is currently not planning on acquiring or deploying UCAVs.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines kill target with HIMARS and F-35 in devastating pairing

According to Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, the U.S. Marine Corps have achieved a milestone when a target was destroyed by connecting an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a HiMARS rocket shot for the first time.

“We were able to connect the F-35 to a HIMARS, to a rocket shot … and we were able to target a particular conex box,” Rudder told audience members on Oct. 8, 2018, at an aviation readiness discussion at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, or CSIS, Marine Corps Times reported.

The integration occurred during Marines’ latest weapons and tactics course at Yuma, Arizona: the F-35 gathered the target location using its high-end onboard sensors and shared the coordinates of the target to the HIMARS system via datalink in a “sensor to shooter” scenario. The HIMARS unit then destroyed the target.


The HIMARS is a movable system that can be rapidly deployed by air, using a C-130 Hercules. It carries six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile on the U.S. Army’s new Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) five-ton truck, and can launch the entire Multiple Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOM). In a typical scenario, a command and control post, a ship or an aircraft (in the latest test, an F-35B – the type that has just had its baptism of fire in Afghanistan) transmits the target data via a secure datalink to the HIMARS on-board launch computer. The computer then aims the launcher and provides prompt signals to the crew to arm and fire a pre-selected number of rounds. The launcher can aim at a target in just 16 seconds.

The Corps has been testing new ways to use its HIMARS lately. For instance, in 2017, the Corps successfully fired and destroyed a target 70 km out on land from the deck of the amphibious transport dock Anchorage. Considered the threat posed to maritime traffic by cruise missiles fired by coastal batteries in the hands of terrorist groups and militias, the amphibious group’s ability suppress coastal defenses from long-range using artillery is important to allow Marines to come ashore.

Russian weapons get between the US and India

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II’s assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

The aim is clearly to shorten what is known as the sensor-to-shooter cycle – the amount of time it takes from when an enemy target is detected by a sensor – either human or electronic – and when it is attacked. Shortening the time is paramount in highly dynamic battlefield.

In September 2016, a live test fire demonstration involved the integration of U.S. Marine Corps F-35B from the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX 1), based in Edwards Air Force Base, with existing Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. The test was aimed at assessing the ability to shoot down incoming cruise missiles.

The F-35B acted as an elevated sensor (to detect an over-the-horizon threat as envisaged for the F-22) that sent data through its Multi-Function Advanced Data Link to a ground station connected to USS Desert Ship (LLS-1), a land-based launch facility designed to simulate a ship at sea. Using the latest Aegis Weapon System Baseline 9.C1 and a Standard Missile 6, the system successfully detected and engaged the target. Indeed, increasingly, 5th generation aircraft are seen as tools to provide forward target identification for both defensive and offensive systems (such as strike missiles launched from surface warships or submerged submarines). Back in 2013, PACAF commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle described the ability of advanced aircraft, at the time the F-22, to provide forward targeting through its sensors for submarine based TLAMs (Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles).

In the following years, the stealthy F-22s, considered “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft”, saw their main role in the war on Daesh evolving into something called “kinetic situational awareness”: in Syria and Iraq, the Raptors escorted the strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness. To make it simple, during Operation Inherent Resolve, the 5th generation aircraft’s pilot leverages advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to collect valuable details about the enemy Order of Battle, then shares the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft, while escorting other manned or unmanned aircraft towards the targets. Something the F-35 will also have to do in the near future.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The CIA just released Osama Bin Laden’s personal journal

On Nov. 1, the CIA released a trove of documents recovered from the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, including the former Al-Qaeda leader’s personal journal.


The CIA said it released the documents in “an effort to further enhance public understanding” of Al-Qaeda, but the agency cautioned that they may contain disturbing, copy written, or adult content, and there “is no absolute guarantee that all malware has been removed.”

Also read: Turns out, Osama bin Laden was a big fan of ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’

Included in the CIA release are scans of Bin Laden’s personal journal, videos, audio files, his correspondence, and hundreds of other documents almost exclusively in Arabic, which have been revealed in an attempt to “provide material relevant to understanding the plans and workings of terrorist organizations.”

Russian weapons get between the US and India
Osama bin Laden (left). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The documents released on Nov. 1 represent just the latest portion released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Find the past documents here.

Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda’s other senior leadership orchestrated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that was the deadliest ever perpetrated on US soil.

In 2011, the US Navy’s SEAL Team 6 raided his compound in darkness and killed Bin Laden on the scene.

Articles

Afghan Army-piloted A-29s will soon attack the Taliban

Russian weapons get between the US and India
Photo by Embraer


Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.

Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.

Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.

“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.

The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.

Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017.  Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.

At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.

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